Spring comes slowly to the mountains where we live. So slowly that even on a sunny, breezy day in May, one is still hoping for a really warm, summer day. We may regret that wish come August, but here in the hills "hot" doesn’t last too long.
Instead of feeling a summer day, my thoughts have turned to summer as I remember it from my childhood. Here is what it was like for me:
When I was small the world came to me in terms of sight and sound and smell. A summer day, for instance, was a mixture of those images. This is a moment as I recall it:
Green. The predominant color is green. Dark, almost black in places, thick and shadow-casting green. Lighter colors seemed blanched, almost non-descript. Green is what I can see. The sky is a hard blue, the sun a white-hot yellow. But the color most abundant is green.
Musical. That is the only word to describe the sounds in this picture. Insects, heavy leaves rustling, water trickling in a creek. A frog plops into the stream. A screen door bangs. Distant sounds of other children laughing or yelling. A lawn mower, man- not engine-powered, adds its chink-chink-chink sound of blades crossing the cutting bar. Saws and hammers from a building under construction offer the keening song of teeth cutting wood, set to the peculiar diminishing pounding rhythm of two carpenters working as a team, the hammer blows overlapping, then the pause as another set of nails is positioned, then the bang-bang-bang again, diminishing, then a final loud one; BANG.
Sweet. A heavy, musky scent from some of the flowers, mixed with the mossy moldy smell of drying creek edges. Green has its own smell: hard, brassy. The water in the creek is cool-smelling, with a sharpness of its own. In the sunnier places the warmth of the water repeats the moldy smell of the drying streamside. An occasional whiff of human overlays it all.
Hot. The air moving over bare arms and legs is hot. Noticeably so in the sun, less so in the shade. It sometimes has movement, but at others is so still. It can change just by changing position: in the open it has a slight movement, but step behind a tree, or walk into a thicket and it becomes still and heavy.
Those are the sounds and smells that still remind me of summer. That and walking slowly along a dirt road, the dust kicking up from the feet of my dog who walks ahead, panting, sniffing the air, and we arrive at the dark screen door that takes us back, into the cool shelter of the house.